Welcome back to the Rookie Report! We’ve arrived at week 17. For most of us, this means the fantasy season is over, and for good reason. Week 17 is typically a fantasy bloodbath. So many teams have so little to play for this week that it’s hard to predict which teams will treat it like a normal week and which won’t. To have a fantasy championship be decided in week 17 is just cruel; and yet, some leagues do it. This year, there are exactly 11 teams that can have their playoff positioning altered in week 17, and at least one of those (the Rams) has already decided to sit many of their starters.
With that in mind, this week’s breakdown will be a little different than usual. I’ll still break the players down by guys you should start, borderline guys, guys you should sit, and some sleepers, but these lists will look a little different than usual. You’re going to see some guys in the ‘Borderline’ and ‘Rookies to Sit’ sections that you aren’t used to. The Sleeper section will also be entirely made up of guys worth a dart throw this week in DFS lineups. There aren’t a ton of them though. Let’s dive in and see who has something to play for in the season’s final week…
Rookies to Start:
RB Alvin Kamara, NO (Wk. 17: @TB): Trusting Kamara this week is an easy decision. The Saints need to win this game to lock up the division title, and AK-41 totaled over 150 scrimmage yards and 2 TDs in the first meeting with Tampa. He’s scored over 15 PPR points in every game he’s been healthy for since week 7, and the matchup here is a good one. Only two teams have allowed more running back touchdowns than the Bucs this season. Kamara should be a cash game staple this week and should be in every season-long lineup still going.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Wk. 17: @Atl.): McCaffrey’s receiving production took a bit of a hit last week with just 2 catches for 19 yards, but I like his chances of bouncing back this week in what should be a pretty good game. Atlanta needs to win to secure a playoff spot, and Carolina needs to win to have a shot at the division title. The Falcons have allowed the 14th-fewest RB fantasy points per game, but they’ve also allowed 101 running back receptions on the year, 7 more than any other team in the league. With the WR group ailing (Funchess shoulder issue, Damiere Byrd back on IR), I expect the Panthers to lean on CMC in the passing game a bit more than usual. He’s an excellent play in PPR formats and should be a great DFS option as well this week.
RB Jamaal Williams, GB (Wk. 17: @Det.): It appears that Williams will be the workhorse back in this game for Green Bay, and the matchups don’t get much better than this. The Lions have been bleeding points to RBs over the past couple months, giving up 29.3 PPR points per game to the position in the 10 games since they lost Haloti Ngata for the year. They’ve given up 112 rushing yards (4.53 ypc) and 1.2 rushing scores per game in that stretch. The only concern for Williams here is that he might be dealing with a negative game script with Detroit a 7-point favorite. As long as Aaron Jones sits, I’d expect him to see enough receiving work that it shouldn’t be a problem. Williams should be a strong option in most formats this week.
RB Samaje Perine, WAS (Wk. 17: @NYG): The efficiency for Perine has been miserable, but the usage has been there and should be again this week. The Giants have allowed the 9th-most running back points per game and rank 24th in run defense DVOA. Samaje got the start last week despite battling a groin injury, and he handled 20 touches on just 34 offensive snaps. He did suffer an Achilles injury (which is why he only played 34 snaps), but he’s practicing in full for week 17 and should see his touches go up as long as he doesn’t get hurt again. There isn’t a ton of ceiling with Perine, but the matchup and volume should make him a very likely top-20 option at RB.
RB Wayne Gallman, NYG (Wk. 17: vs. Was.): The Giants’ season has been over for a long time, but they insist on trying to win more football games. They’ll be a little short-handed with Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard sidelined in week 17, so they are likely to lean on Wayne Gallman in the passing game once again. Gallman has averaged 16.3 touches and 80 scrimmage yards per game in the past 3 weeks, and more importantly for PPR formats, he’s averaged 8 targets and 6.7 catches per game in that stretch. Washington has done a pretty good job of limiting RB receiving production, but I wouldn’t be too concerned about it given what a big role Gallman should play in the passing game this week. Washington has also been getting gashed in the run game, giving up 130 yards per game and 6 rushing scores in the past 7 weeks. I’d view Gallman as a decent RB2 option in PPR formats and a great DFS option at just $4,200 on DraftKings.
RB Matt Breida, SF (Wk. 17: @LAR): Breida nearly matched Carlos Hyde last week in fantasy points despite playing about half as many snaps and handling half as many touches. I’d expect him to see at least a slightly bigger share of the work this week, and the Rams have allowed the 5th-most RB points per game this season. If he sees any bump in volume, he’ll find himself likely pushing for a top-25 RB performance this week.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT (Wk. 17: vs. Cle.): I would be all in on JuJu if the Steelers had any interest in treating this like a game they should try to win. Instead, it sounds like it will be Landry Jones under center and Stevan Ridley as the team’s lead back. I’d still expect JuJu to play much of the game with Antonio Brown sidelined again, but there is still a risk that he’s pulled early. If Big Ben does end up getting the start, JJSS is a no-brainer start, but if not, he falls more into WR3 territory. It is a pretty enticing matchup though, with the Browns ranking 29th in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA.
WRs Keelan Cole and Dede Westbrook, JAX (Wk. 17: @Ten.): Allen Hurns is expected back this week, but Marqise Lee isn’t, and with the way these two are playing, I’d be shocked if Hurns plays a huge number of snaps. The Jaguars are in an interesting spot with head coach Doug Marrone saying they will treat this as a normal game, but their seeding is already decided. It wouldn’t be a shock if we see some Chad Henne in this one, which would likely lower the ceiling for each guy a bit. The matchup is a pretty good one, with the Titans allowing the 7th-most WR points per game, but if either guy plays limited snaps or spends a lot of time with Henne under center, they will likely find themselves as borderline WR3 options.
WR Corey Davis, TEN (Wk. 17: vs. Jax.): Davis finally got on track in week 16, posting his best fantasy game of the season. He caught 6 passes on 9 targets for 91 yards. This week he gets to face off with one of the toughest WR defenses in the league, but as I mentioned above, the Jaguars don’t have anything to gain by winning this one. I’d expect some of their key defenders to play limited snaps, and the Titans will still be playing for a possible playoff berth. Even through his struggles, Davis hasn’t seen fewer than 4 targets in any game since recovering from his hamstring injury 2 months ago, and he’s seen 7+ targets in 4 of the 9 games he’s played. I think 5-60 would be a reasonable expectation this week for Corey, and maybe he finds his first career TD.
WR Mack Hollins, PHI (Wk. 17: vs. Dal.): The Eagles aren’t expected to play their starters for too long in the finale, and Hollins should see plenty of run in this game. The Cowboys’ pass defense is nothing to write home about, and Hollins has managed to produce whenever the ball comes his way. For the season he’s caught more than 76% of the targets to come his way and has averaged 15.5 yards per catch. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t see at least 5+ targets.
TE George Kittle, SF (Wk. 17: @LAR): Garrett Celek played limited snaps in week 16 and wasn’t targeted once while Kittle managed to score his second TD of the season. Celek isn’t listed on the injury report this week, so there’s a chance he goes back to his regular role as the lead tight end, but I think Kittle will still lead the team in snaps there. Jimmy Garoppolo has made the 49ers TEs fantasy relevant, and this week Kittle gets to face a defense that has given up 4 tight end TDs in the last 3 games and is also resting a number of their starters.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Mitch Trubisky, CHI (Wk. 17: @Min.): If the Vikings officially had the number 2 seed wrapped up, I’d like Trubisky as a sleeper with the Vikes likely to sit most of their important starters. Unfortunately for Chicago, there is still a scenario where the Vikings could lose the first round bye. It is a really specific scenario: the Saints would have to lose to Tampa Bay, the Panthers would have to beat the Falcons, and the Vikings would have to lose. I think it’s really unlikely that New Orleans will lose to Tampa with the division title at stake, but I don’t expect Minnesota to chance it, especially since they play in the early slate while the other two games are both in the late afternoon. If Minnesota plays to win, their suffocating defense should shut down the Bears’ offense without much trouble.
QB DeShone Kizer, CLE (Wk. 17: @Pit.): Kizer has totaled 7.4 fantasy points in the last 2 games combined, and the Steelers can still potentially win homefield advantage throughout the playoffs and should be at least a little motivated to win. No thank you.
QB Davis Webb, NYG (Wk. 17: vs. Was.): Webb will be active in the season finale, but it appears it will be Eli Manning who gets the start. Interim head coach Steve Spagnuolo has already said that the plan is for Eli to play every snap, and I believe him. Webb might not play at all, which is kind of ridiculous given that the Giants ended Eli’s start streak to get Geno Smith 1 start.
RB Kareem Hunt, KC (Wk. 17: @Den.): The Chiefs have absolutely nothing to gain by running their workhorse out there for a big snap number. They’re locked into the 4-seed already, so if Hunt is active at all, I’d only expect him to play a few series to make sure he doesn’t build up any rust before the wild card weekend. He shouldn’t be in fantasy lineups.
RB Leonard Fournette, JAX (Wk. 17: @Ten.): Just as Kansas City is locked into the 4th seed, Jacksonville has the 3-seed wrapped up and has nothing to gain with a victory. Like Hunt, if Fournette plays at all it will just be a few series early on. There’s no way you can rely on him this week despite claims from Doug Marrone that the Jaguars will treat this like any other game.
RB Joe Mixon, CIN (Wk. 17: @Bal.): Mixon is practicing as of Thursday, but there’s still no guarantee that he’ll suit up this weekend for the finale. He’s left each of the last two games he’s played with injury early on, and Gio Bernard has played well. If the Bengals are going to go all-out in an effort to play spoiler to Baltimore, I’d expect a pretty even split of work between Mixon and Gio if both are active. The Ravens aren’t exactly a defense to fear (they’ve allowed the 13th-most RB points per game), but the Bengals’ offense remains mediocre at best and a split in volume would make both guys tough to trust.
RBs Aaron Jones & Devante Mays, GB (Wk. 17: @Det.): Jones looks like a longshot to even play this week, and we haven’t seen anything from Mays yet this season. Mays has totaled negative-1 yards on 3 carries and lost a fumble this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if Devante’s out-touched by FB Aaron Ripkowski in this one. If you’re looking for a guy to play from the GB backfield against the Lions’ awful run defense this week, the choice is Jamaal Williams.
RB Corey Clement, PHI (Wk. 17: vs. Dal.): I was thinking that Clement might be a strong option for this week with the Eagles having nothing to play for and resting Jay Ajayi and LeGarrette Blount, but there’s a strong possibility they rest Clement as well. It’s looking likely that it will be mostly Wendell Smallwood and Kenjon Barner handling the running back snaps for Philadelphia this Sunday. They may mix in their main RBs early on, but there won’t be enough work for any of those backs to be trusted this week. The best DFS play of the group is probably Smallwood. I’m not sure that they will have 5 running backs active, so if one of Smallwood or Barner is inactive, the other is the best DFS play.
RB Tion Green, DET (Wk. 17: vs. GB): The Lions have a pretty good matchup this week with the Packers, who have allowed the 7th-most RB points per game this season (and at least 27 PPR points to RBs in 5 of their past 6), but Green will continue to play second fiddle to Riddick and the matchup actually seems to suit him better. While the Packers have given up 160.5 points to running backs in the past 6 contests, just 43% of those points have been put up on the ground. The rest have been receiving points. Tion Green has not caught a pass all year. While you may be tempted to trot him out this week after his 10-point showing in Cincy, I think he’ll be hard-pressed to duplicate it.
RB Tarik Cohen, CHI (Wk. 17: @Min.): No team allows fewer running back points per game than the Vikings, and as mentioned above with Trubisky, Minnesota still needs to take care of business here and should be playing their starters. Cohen is usually a boom-or-bust flex option anyway. So facing the toughest RB defense in the league makes using him a bad idea. Only 2 teams have allowed fewer RB receiving yards than the Vikings.
RB Marlon Mack, IND (Wk. 17: vs. Hou.): With the season already long over for the Colts, Mack still hasn’t seen much of a bump in playing time. He played just 15 offensive snaps in last week’s loss to Baltimore, and there isn’t much guarantee he plays more this week. There are better options out there than Mack in his limited role.
RB Austin Ekeler, LAC (Wk. 17: vs. Oak.): The Chargers are still fighting for a playoff spot, but that’s actually a bad thing for Ekeler this week. Melvin Gordon is fighting through an ankle sprain, but I would expect him to suit up in this game with the season on the line. Ekeler has been dealing with a hand injury of his own, and was limited to just special teams last week. He’s got his hand in a cast and will be unable to catch passes out of the backfield. Because of this, Branden Oliver would get the start if Melvin Gordon is unable to play. I’d avoid Ekeler even in that scenario.
RB Elijah McGuire, NYJ (Wk. 17: @NE): It would be nice if the Jets were able to give McGuire some extended run in the regular season finale, but they could have done that at any point in the last several weeks and haven’t. He has just 19 touches in the past 5 weeks, and expecting any more out of him this week would likely be a mistake.
WR Chris Godwin, TB (Wk. 17: vs. NO): Godwin posted another strong performance last week in a starting opportunity as DeSean Jackson sat with an ankle injury, but Godwin sustained an ankle injury of his own in that game. He’s not practicing as of Thursday, so there is a real chance he sits this week. DeSean Jackson, on the other hand, is practicing and looks like he’ll be able to play. Even if he suits up, Godwin likely won’t play nearly as many snaps as he did last week and may even lose some work to Adam Humphries if the Bucs don’t want to overdo it with Godwin.
WR Zay Jones, BUF (Wk. 17: @Mia.): There is a chance Zay gets more involved this week, but he shouldn’t be doing so from any of your lineups. He has zero catches in the last 3 weeks despite playing 70% or more of the offensive snaps in each of the last 2. The fact that he costs more than the minimum in DraftKings is a joke.
WR Mike Williams, LAC (Wk. 17: vs. Oak.): As mentioned with Ekeler, the fact that the Chargers are still fighting for a playoff spot likely means the reserves aren’t going to see extended opportunities in week 17. Williams has seen just 6 targets in the past 5 weeks. There is no reason to fire him up against the Raiders.
TE Ricky Seals-Jones, ARI (Wk. 17: @Sea.): RSJ has faced two of the worst TE defenses in the league in the past 2 weeks and has just 2 catches for 11 yards to show for it. He played a season-high 54% of the offensive snaps in week 16 and didn’t record a catch. Clearly he doesn’t have the same connection with Drew Stanton that he does with Blaine Gabbert. There are better options is you’re looking for a sleeper tight end this week.
TE David Njoku, CLE (Wk. 17: @Pit.): Njoku has done next to nothing since his breakout game against the Chargers in week 13, and there is no reason to expect that to change this week. The Steelers have allowed the 2nd fewest TE points per game in the league.
TE Adam Shaheen, CHI (Wk. 17: @Min.): The Vikings don’t have much to play for, but Shaheen has missed the last two games with a chest injury and appears iffy at best for this one. Minnesota has allowed the 3rd-fewest TE points per game, so even if Shaheen is able to play there isn’t really a good reason to try him in any format.
TE Jonnu Smith, TEN (Wk. 17: vs. Jax.): As long as Delanie Walker is playing, there’s no reason to trust Jonnu Smith in fantasy. He has just 4 catches for 38 yards total in the past 8 weeks, and the Titans are still alive for a playoff spot, so they have no reason to sit Delanie now.
Deep League Sleepers and Cheap DFS Options:
QB Patrick Mahomes, KC (Wk. 17: @Den.): The matchup isn’t a great one for Mahomes’ first NFL start, but the Broncos’ defense isn’t what it once was. Denver has allowed the 15th-fewest QB points for the year, and may be throwing in the towel on this season. They let Kirk Cousins throw for 299 yards and 3 scores last week. They’ve given up 12+ points to the opposing QB in 13 of the 15 games they’ve played this year, and 15+ in 9 of them. Mahomes makes for an interesting streamer in 2-QB leagues, and would be a fun play in a limited slate DFS tournament. He probably won’t be playing with a full complement of weapons, but he should be comfortable with the 2nd-stringers that he typically works with in practice.
RB Brian Hill, CIN (Wk. 17: @Bal.): I mentioned above that I could see an even split of the work between Gio Bernard and Joe Mixon out of the Bengals’ backfield this week if both guys are active, but if one or both sits out, Hill should see some extended run. The Bengals’ season has been over for a while now, so it might make sense to see what Hill can give them. Keep an eye on the updates throughout the week. Hill would be worth a dart throw in limited slate DFS tournaments if it looks like one of those two will be out.
WR Kenny Golladay, DET (Wk. 17: vs. GB): Fresh off an 8-target game, Golladay gets to square off with a Green Bay defense that has allowed the 8th-most WR points per game. The Packers have been more vulnerable to short throws, so Golden Tate is the best play in the Lions WR group this week, but Golladay costs just $3,300 on DraftKings and played 95% of the offensive snaps last Sunday. He’s got a chance to end his season on a high note this week.
WRs Trent Taylor & Kendrick Bourne, SF (Wk. 17: @LAR): The 49ers didn’t just go on a 4-game winning streak to take week 17 off. Look for them to go all-out in an effort to get to 6-10 and 5-0 in the Jimmy Garoppolo era. That means Taylor and Bourne will play their normal roles against a team that is sitting a lot of their key players. For Taylor that has meant 8+ PPR points in 3 of the last 4 games. Bourne hasn’t been quite as consistent, but he did put up a 4-85 line against Tennessee and has been targeted 11 times in the past 2 weeks. Both are worth considering as a dart throw in limited DFS slates. Marquise Goodwin remains the best option in this passing attack though.
WR Josh Reynolds, LAR (Wk. 17: vs. SF): The Rams have already ruled out Jared Goff, Cooper Kupp and Todd Gurley for their week 17 tilt with the 49ers. I’d be surprised if Sammy Watkins or Robert Woods play more than a couple series. That should give Reynolds plenty of playing time in a game where the 49ers are actually favored to win in Los Angeles. The Rams should be throwing it a decent amount. Sean Mannion isn’t the best QB out there, but Sean McVay’s offense has proven to be a pretty good one so far this season. Reynolds is nothing more than a dart throw in DFS tournaments, but he’s one that has already posted 2 6-target games in weeks where Watkins and Kupp were active. I’d expect him to lead the Rams in targets this week (if it isn’t backup RB Malcolm Brown).
WR Ryan Switzer, DAL (Wk. 17: @Phi.): The Cowboys don’t really have much to play for this week, and Cole Beasley is listed as questionable with an illness as of Friday. Switzer is the most likely option to take over in the slot, and in a game where Dez and Terrance Williams might get pulled before it’s over, Switzer might be the best bet on the team to play a full complement of snaps if Beasley sits. Beasley has drawn 13 targets in the last 3 weeks.
TE Gerald Everett, LAR (Wk. 17: vs. SF): The Rams will have to throw the ball somewhere, and Everett is one of the few guys who should get extended run this week that has some production under his belt already. I’d expect the leading weapons this week for LA will be Malcolm Brown, Josh Reynolds, Pharoh Cooper, Tavon Austin and Everett (maybe Tyler Higbee as well). Among those players listed, only Higbee and Everett have more than 100 receiving yards for the year. I’d expect the number 2 TE Everett to have a better connection with backup QB Sean Mannion. The 49ers have allowed 14-113-2 to tight ends in the last 2 weeks. This is as good a week as any to take a shot on Everett.
That’s all I’ve got for this season. Hopefully I’ve helped you navigate some tough weeks this year with your rookies. If I did, make sure to come back next year when I start covering the 2018 rookie crop. As usual, if you do have to set a lineup this week or play any DFS lineups, keep an eye on the injury reports and weather reports throughout the week, and most importantly keep an eye on any updates about players who will be rested. 21 teams have nothing to gain with a win this week. If you have any specific questions or want to yell at me about any of the info above, feel free to hit me up on twitter to do so (@Shawn_Foss). As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.